In case you need a refresher, here’s what I found after Googling “hero’s journey.”
· Ordinary World
· Call to Adventure
· Refusal of the Call
· Meeting with the Mentor
· Crossing the First Threshold
· Tests, Allies, Enemies
· The Road Back
· Resurrection Hero
· Return with Elixir
I just want to focus on one aspect of this that drives me up the wall, and that is item number three: “Refusal of the call.” Every time this happens in a book, it frustrates the crap out of me.
- It feels like slowing down the story for no reason. We know the hero is eventually going to say yes. It’s not suspenseful, it’s annoying.
- And the main reason I’m going crazy: We would all die to be in your shoes! Didn’t every kid grow up hoping something huge and magical would happen to them? If a portal opened up in my backyard, I would have left and never looked back. And my life was just fine! Most of these fantasy heroes have terrible lives, with terrible, borderline abusive (and sometimes not borderline at all) families, zero friends, and no talent in school because they’re supposed to be off learning magic/sword fighting/whatever in another world! And they’re like, “Hm, I don’t know if I want magic and heroics, when here I can be yelled at, lonely, and enjoy my meaningless life for a while.” DAMMIT!
“But Ellie and Savannah refused the call!” DID THEY? I don’t think so! Savannah hesitated for about three seconds before running away with Ellie. And when June told them they were the only ones who could save the world, again, they only hesitated for a moment. “Wait, can we really do that?” And June was like, “Nah, it’s fine, I’ll teach ya and we’ll get ya there.” When I was getting feedback before it was published, someone said maybe I should make it clearer why the girls are so readily willing to accept their gifts, and say yes to June. My response? “I’ve literally never given that half a thought before.” Of course they’d say yes!
I was reading “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” and this section caught my eye. And by “caught my eye,” I mean I froze, and read it over six-hundred times, and haven’t been able to turn the page because it was the craziest thing I’ve ever read. I sat down to write this blog immediately after reading it for the 600th time:
“Is Jacob going to stay with us? At the time I’d thought, Of course not. But why not? If I never went home, what exactly would I be missing? I pictured my cold cavernous house, my friendless town full of bad memories, the utterly unremarkable life that had been mapped out for me. It had never once occurred to me, I realized, to refuse it.”
REALLY? It never occurred to you? Are you insane? Am I insane? Didn’t every kid dream of this kind of sh*t? Your life sucked, and your telling me you wouldn’t think of giving it up? AREN’T YOU LIKE FIFTEEN WHAT THE ACTUAL FLYING--
Okay. I need to calm down. So. When would it be reasonable for a hero to refuse the call?
- You’d be giving up something great. If you already have a great life, and your leaving for totally unknown, I can kind of sort of understand.
- Extreme danger. I’d understand if you were going to be walking into a hellish battle, and not a cool, magical fairyland.
- You're a hobbit.
Whew. Okay, I’ll see you next Monday, and maybe by then I’ll have chilled out a bit.